I was talking with a woman with whom I had nothing in common. She wore heels and a sleek suit; I wore Doc Martens and flowery tights. Then, it emerged she was a salesperson for the pharmaceutical company that makes one of my medications.
“Thank you. I take that. It helps me. I’m glad you’re getting it into the world.”
“That’s what I love about my work. It’s necessary to many people.”
“There’s still stigma around mental illness.”
“It keeps people from getting better. A lot of suffering could be alleviated if people got appropriate medical help.”
I shared the challenges of keeping track of all my medications, of not forgetting to take them.
“I know. I’m on two medications and even though I work for a pharmaceutical company, I still forget to take them.” Then she said, “but my depression is situational. I just got divorced and I’ll be off the medication in a few months anyway.”
The conversation ground to a halt, our embryonic sense of mutual trust and commonality destroyed. She had essentially said, “I’m not one of you mentally ill people. I’m a normal person who’s just having a hard time.”
Some of us have the mental health equivalent of the common cold. Others have emotional diabetes. Some have psychological leukemia. Mental health status exists on a spectrum, varying not just from person to person, but also over time. Everyone gets a headache sometime. There is no “us.” There is no “them.” We are one.
Elizabeth Castiglione, 484-802-7440, firstname.lastname@example.org